To Dennis S., May 28th 1998, Basel
I am sitting in the train to Bern, our capital, and as usual I enjoy the peace and quiet of the train ride. There is no kitchen to be cleaned up, no phone to be answered and no nothing to distract me. I meditate about this afternoon class, in which we will be discussing the ins and outs, the pros and cons of home schooling - an issue which is yet quite unknown over here.
In your mail to me, you said something about the poor education which many of the students around you seem to have gotten and you said, that alternatives in education could be very useful to change this situation ... Well. Of course, this is a very complex topic. My main concern is - and this might be different from what you were thinking of - not so much the lack of knowledge etc.; my main concern with students over here is rather their lack of curiosity and courage - courage to ask questions, to not know, to appear "stupid" etc. etc. - The crowd over here - and again, the situation in the states may be quite different - is very easy to handle, very docil, very much ready to do, what you tell them to etc. etc. They are also very "learned" people in a way, but the learnedness consists mainly of memorized words and formula, which seem to exist and rule the world quite appart from whatever these people actually thing, know or feel about the world. - Especially in the university setting I find it very difficult to get into a real down to earth discussion about anything with them. They are very affraid to say anything, unless they know exactly, that this is, what everybody wants to hear ... Of course, there are always exeptions, but the over all impression is lack of critical thinking, lack of courage, lack of vitality and true, real interests. The "good" quality of our schools (swiss and european in general) garantees a fair amount of positive knowledge in the heads of those, who leave high school (Gymnasium); In general however the emotional or sensual basis for all learning and development seems quite week, if not to say destroyed.
The question, what kind of education we want to support and promote has of course a lot to do, with the kind of life, we want to support and promote. We are thus talking about political and social choices, when we are talking about different approaches in education. And as far as I am concerned, I am too much of a social critic to just support more positive knowledge, more highly skilled people, who are willing and trained to apply their brains and hearts and hands to what ever job or task they are asked to do. I rather want to see people be more independent minded, more anarchistic in their thinking and life styles ... I would love to see this around me and in my own life, for I myself am still very much the kind of person I have described to you above: quite nconformist and ready to submit to all kinds of authorities. To not do this but stick to my own ways is always a struggle for me, something which certainly doesn't come natural to me, for I am very much a product of middle class education, where comformity and politeness are seen as the way to success, to money and happiness. My critical mind and the learned fears within me are therefor quite often in conflict with each other, my mind trying to reprogram and reeducate my fearful, well behaving emotional self, encouraging it to be more straight forward, less concerned about what "the others" might think or say or do ... This struggle is of course not unique at all; however, most people seem to worry less about this issue of conformity etc. To me it is in deed a big issue - in my personal as well as in my professional life; it may even be the central concern in my educational thinking.
While I am philosophizing away we are already approaching Bern. In order to give you a broader picture of me - I am not just a 24 hour social philosopher! - let me tell you... that ... my computer has again broken down and I am hoping, that my friend Gil will be able to come to Basel either tonight or this week end to get it up and going again. Over the last decade I have become more and more dependent on these machines. The as yet last step into this total dependency is the scanner I got this January. Until then I allways worked with real people as my readers and with tapes or braille paper as material to note what ever these readers came up with. My scanner has changed my old ways of working quite drasticly - toward more quantitative efficiency and toward more independence from my fellow human beings, but also toward more dependency from the equippment and toward intensified struggle with quantity and with loosing tuch with what i initially wanted to do, when I started with this kind of work. - The tools of my work seem to have a strong tendency to become my masters and to define more and more, what I am doing and how I do it.
If Gil cannot come tonight, I might meet with a fellow in Bern, whom I've yet only met over the internet and telephone, while a was trying once again to find the man of my dreams. Although I am affraid, that he is not this man of my dreams, I find it always interesting to get to know new people, especially gay men, for - although I am pretty open about my being gay and I seem to not have a lot of problems with it - I for some reason don't have many gay Friends and I realize, that this is something I miss in my life. Not just lovers etc. - to have many of them is nice, too, of course! - but also just friends to talk too, to travel with, to go swimming or hiking.
Well: Surfing through the internet in hope of all kinds of private and professional finds is certainly one thing, which has taken up quite some time and energy since I got hooked into the web about 15 months ago. At that time I was in Ojai, California, where I spent about 4 weeks as a guest in a Krishna Murti retreat place. I was there not so much because of Krishna Murti ... hoops. I have to get of the train. We're here!e
On my way to the mountains, Sunday, May 31st 1998: I got this far last thursday. Then "actual reality" overtook again and pushed virtual reality in the back ground. I didn't see Chris, the man, on thursday; we just talked on the phone. My friend Gil came Friday night; we went to some sort of show together first, then we started fixing my computer. We were working right through the night, not really succeding but making some progress at least. Yesterday afternoon I help a friend of mine moving and now I am on my way to the mountains, where I will be meeting with an former student of the "Ecole d'Humanité", the school, the history of which is the topic of my actual research project. We will be talking about old times - the 30ies and the 40ies - and I will hopefully gain some more insights into what went on at that time.
Changing trains half an hour ago, I had some minutes to play my floot in one of the underground passages of Luzern train station. I enjoyed the beautiful echos and the richness of the sounds I produced, and while I was playing I remembered that I actually got this instrument at the saturdays market in Eugene in 1974! It is a very simple but very well made bamboo floot, which I got then for something like $16 and which has since been with me as one of my most beloved instruments. The longer I play it, the more entreagued I get with ist qualities and ist potentials.
Next to me some American tourists are enjoying the beauty of the country we are passing through: Rocks, mountains on either side of where we're going and laek Luzern ... blue sky and sun! On this note let me end this letter to you. Some other time I may be in a more biographical mood, so that you will get something like an over view of where I come from and all this.
If you feel like and if you find some time to do it tell me more about your life! Love, Martin